Episode #90

I Got Tenure, Then This Happened

We get our hopes up for what it might feel like after we finally get tenure, but what is the reality? I’m sharing some of my own story about getting tenure, and what came next. 


Are you a mid to late career academic who got tenure (or promotion, depending on your system) and felt a serious let down? You are not alone. I’m sharing a little of my own story on this episode to illustrate what changes, what doesn’t, and what to do about it. 

My Story

I started out with the University of Puerto Rico just before a recession hit, around 2007. Very quickly, things went from sort of cushy and spacious, to very tight and uncertain. When I went up for associate professor, I was put on a waitlist with other colleagues and basically told, ‘when we have the money, we’ll promote you’. I sat on that list for at least 2 years. I was going up for full tenure by the time I received the final approval notice for associate professor! All the little perks like cost of living increases, materials allowances, accumulated vacation time payouts and sabbaticals for tenured professors were all gone at this point. There was no support for adding new programs, no encouragement to take risks. 

I felt a pretty big sense of letdown after getting my full tenure. Yes, I had stability, but I felt like I was stuck, with no opportunity for continued growth and no support for the dreams I had for my career. No lightbulb moment, shifting of priorities or workload, or sense of freedom accompanied the tenure award. I feel very fortunate that I was able to find my zone of genius outside the ‘container’ of my institution. After a 2 year self-funded sabbatical I resigned and am now living out my post-tenure career aspirations in a new way. 

Is This You?

Do you have a similar experience of dissatisfaction post-tenure? Tenure does have its benefits, of course! Stability, stature, and often a pay raise give tenure it’s coveted status. However, these benefits do not necessarily affect how our careers feel after tenure. Many of the academics I’ve spoken to have shared these kinds of experiences:

  • They feel tired, overwhelmed, overscheduled and overcommitted. Their own projects and priorities often fall to the wayside as they continue to put out fires and address the needs of others.
  • They have so many teaching and advising deadlines and responsibilities that there is no time for other things, like writing.
  • They have big dreams, but it seems like no one else on campus thinks the way they do, or has the same kinds of aspirations.
  • They feel restless, uninspired, and question their validity on the path they are on.

We tend to blame ourselves when we can’t get to a place that feels good post-tenure. But let me tell you from experience, that not much changes in the day-to-day unless we make those changes for ourselves. 

“If you felt like you were running on a treadmill set too fast pre-tenure, that’s how you will feel post-tenure.” -Cathy Mazak 

What Now?

If you identify with some of the feelings and experiences above, but what you want is a bigger, more satisfying, impactful and legacy building career, then consider learning more about my Elevate program for mid and late career academics. 

My team and I have listened to the needs and desires of post-tenure academics just like you, and created Elevate to help you gain clarity on what you want to come next for you and to help you take the actions to make it happen.

Elevate is a 6-month, high level coaching program that utilizes 1:1 coaching, group coaching, and curriculum based learning to set you up for clarity and action. This legacy building program is full of people who see something bigger for their futures, and want a different experience post-tenure. 

Elevate starts in February, but we want to give you plenty of time to learn more, secure your funding and decide if it’s the right step for you. Click here to sign up for an in-depth info session during the first week of October 2021 to get a behind the scenes look at the program and each step of the framework. 

If you are mid to late career and feel frustrated but are ready to step into something bigger, sign up to join us at the info session. See you there!

Pulled in a thousand directions and can’t seem to carve out time to write? Download my 10 Ways to Make Time to Write cheat sheet for ideas to implement today!


Connect with me:

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Follow me on Clubhouse: @cathymazak 


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